Puerto Rico is a great place to visit whether you’re a new traveler or a seasoned one looking for an affordable destination. If you are flying out from the east coast, it is easy to find a flight deal to the island. Some bonuses are that US citizens don’t need a passport to visit, USD are used as the local currency, and no roaming charges are applied to your cellphone.
I’ve been to Puerto Rico several times and have enjoyed myself on each visit. It is one of the first places I traveled to as an adult. This was due largely to the facts that it’s a short flight from NYC to SJU and activities on the island aren’t expensive. If you’re planning a trip to “La Isla del Encanto” be sure to follow my 5 tips below.
- Rent a car to explore the island. Taxis around the island are expensive. Driving is not difficult because roads and highways are marked according to the US Interstate system. Be sure that the car has Auto Expresso, the Puerto Rican equivalent of E-ZPass. There is no option to pay tolls with cash so you will need this to get around the island. If you have a portable GPS bring it along since there’s no charge to download a map of Puerto Rico.
- Stay outside of Old San Juan. Because Old San Juan is the most popular tourist area on the island, it is extremely expensive to stay there. The art and cobblestone streets are perfect for photo ops, but because the island is not that large it is easy to get to Old San Juan if you’ve rented a car and are staying elsewhere. On my most recent trip I stayed in Rio Grande, close to El Yunque Rainforest. This area is great if you don’t care about being in the center of the action. However, if you’re looking for more of a city feel I recommend staying in Condado. It’s close to Old San Juan, but a more affordable option.
- Fajardo Seven Seas is one of the island’s best beaches. On my trip I got recommendations from locals on what beach to visit. They all recommended Seven Seas Beach in Fajardo and I was happy I took their advice. It was free to enter and there are a ton of food kiosks along the way in Luquillo. My friends and I discovered The House of Pastelillos when we left the beach and had the most delicious meal there. If you plan to visit Seven Seas this restaurant is worth a visit.
- No Spanish necessary. Since becoming a US territory English is taught in schools throughout the island. It is also an official language of the government. Prior to my visit I was excited to practice my Spanish, but it was not necessary as everyone I encountered was bilingual. However, if you plan to venture outside of the tourist areas it is a good idea to learn a couple phrases.
- Take advantage of the different activities the island has to offer. Puerto Rico has a ton of free and low cost things to do. I would highly recommend the following.
- Bioluminescent Bay
- This is a bay that lights up at night due to the presence of dinoflagellates in the water. Be sure to wear lots of mosquito repellent as there’s an abundance of mosquitoes by the water.
- El Yunque National Forest
- This is a tropical rain forest located on the island. My friends and I chose to ride through it on horseback, but you can hike it if you choose.
- Castillo San Cristóbal and Castillo San Felipe del Morro
- These are two of Puerto Rico’s most famous sites. Be sure to visit to capture stunning 360 views of San Juan. A ticket for entry to both sites cost $5 for those over the age of 15. Entry is free for anyone younger than 15.
- Bacardí Factory (Casa Bacardí)
- A tour of the Bacardí Factory was the highlight of my trip. When I visited there was no charge for admission and you were given 2 complimentary drinks. However, it seems there is now a charge of either $15 or $45 depending on the tour you choose.
- Bioluminescent Bay
If you’re looking for a quick, tropical getaway from the east coast, look no further. Puerto Rico is the perfect location for foodies, thrill seekers, nature enthusiasts, and budget conscious travelers. Visit the See Puerto Rico site for more information on the island.
As always if you have any questions or need help planning your trip feel free to contact me here.